By Brian Koonce
FLORISSANT – Jeff Wells has been at every Olympic Summer and Winter Games since 2000 in Sydney … and he’s not even a sports fan.
The pastor of Cross Keys Baptist Church, Wells will travel to Vancouver Feb. 15 with the goal of sharing the Gospel to thousands of spectators as more than 1 million people converge on the western Canadian city.
Wells will be working with Action Ministries International (AMI), a ministry that uses pins to introduce the Gospel with sports fans from around the world.
“Pin trading is the unofficial sport of the Olympics,” Wells said. “We have the ‘Jesus Pin,’ which uses the colors of salvation bracelets to share the Gospel. Everyone is looking for new pins so it gives us a ton of opportunities to meet and share with people. Regardless of where they’re from or what language they speak, 99 percent of the time they want that pin and we’re able to get the idea across. If they do speak even a little English, they’re excited to practice.”
A small team of about 30 will share the Gospel using the Jesus Pin thousands of times during the 17 days of the Winter Olympics. They’re taking 15,000 of the pins to Vancouver. He took his first Olympic Mission trip in 2000 to the Summer Games in Sydney, where he saw hundreds of people from 36 countries come to Christ.
“I was hooked,” Wells said.
Since then, he has been to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City and Torino and the Summer Games in Athens and Beijing.
“Back home, I may get to share the Gospel three or four times a day,” he said. “There, I’m going to be sharing 100 times a day. It’s like Acts 1:8 all in one place. In 2008 I was having a conversation in China with an Australian, then a man from Great Britain, then a man from South Korea. I also met and shared with a man who lives five minutes from my church back in Florissant.”
Wells and the others on the AMI are not there to watch the events, but getting a ticket to an event often means another chance to tell someone about Jesus.
“Especially since 9/11, increased security has made getting into at least some events a priority because that’s where the people are,” he said. “The bobsled event is a not all that great to watch, but it’s a great place to witness. You’re only able to see the action for a split second then there’s 20 minutes of dead time. In 2006, I was able to go to the Opening Ceremonies and that was another great place to witness. You have to be in your seats three hours before, so there’s nothing to do but talk to everyone around you.”
Wells said he has also had the opportunity to share with many athletes and their families, especially once their events are over. The AMI team also seeks out the broadcast location for “The Today Show” and strikes up conversations with Americans clamoring to be seen in background shots. He said they have given Jesus Pins to the cast of “The Today Show” as well.
Wells has to raise his own funds, but said Cross Keys back in Florissant has been very supportive.
“In Beijing I did a live Skype report back home to give them an immediate update on what was going on,” he said.
Even though the Vancouver Games are looming, Wells said he is looking forward to London in 2012.
“It’s going to be challenging, especially with the Muslim influence,” he said.
Wells asked that people pray for him and the AMI teams.
“Ask that God gives us strength and endurance,” he said. These are going to be long, hard, cold days. Pray that we will have the heart of Jesus to see who we need to talk to.”